KYIV: President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Saturday that Ukrainian counter-offensive operations were under way, but remained discreet on details beyond sending a message to the Kremlin that his top generals were in high spirits.
Zelensky shrugged dismissively at a news conference in Kyiv when asked to comment after Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Friday that Ukrainian forces had certainly begun their much-vaunted counter-offensive.
“Counter-offensive and defensive actions are taking place in Ukraine, but I will not say in detail what stage they are at,” he said, then listing Ukraine’s top military brass by name.
“They are all in a positive mood. Pass that on to Putin,” he said with a smile alongside visiting Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Ukraine has said for months it plans to conduct a major counter-offensive to recapture tracts of land occupied by Russia in the south and east, but it is enforcing strict operational silence and has denied it has begun the main operation for now.
Russia says Ukraine launched a big offensive push this week, but that Kyiv’s forces failed to breach its defences and also sustained heavy casualties.
With scant independent reporting from the front lines, it has been difficult to assess the state of the fighting.
Britain’s Ministry of Defence said Ukraine had conducted significant operations in several eastern and southern parts in the last 48 hours, with Russian defences breached in places.
“In some areas, Ukrainian forces have likely made good progress and penetrated the first line of Russian defences. In others, Ukrainian progress has been slower,” it said, characterising the Russian military’s performance as mixed.
“Some (Russian) units are likely conducting credible manoeuvre defence operations while others have pulled back in some disorder, amid increased reports of Russian casualties as they withdraw through their own minefields.”